4

At Nine75, the food is still great, but your gift card is no good

Got the best kind of phone call one afternoon last week: a friend was sitting on a $150 gift card to Nine75, the stylish restaurant at the corner of Lincoln and 10th, and he was ready to cash it in. Did I want to come along?

Well, I suppose that box of mac and cheese can wait a night.

Cut to a few hours later, around 10 o'clock. As I scraped up the last bits of the roasted potatoes that accompanied my short ribs, my gift-card-wielding friend handed the card to our server. Between three of us, we'd done what three guys with a $150 gift card are supposed to: eaten our way as close to $150 as we could, putting down plates of gourmet mac and cheese, salad, a ribeye, chicken and waffles, asparagus, lobster tacos, a couple of Newcastles. It was all delicious. We'd come up a little short (dessert, anyone?) but still managed a $125 bill.

The waiter took the card, but then suddenly reappeared, catching my friend on his way to the bathroom. Sorry, he said, but we're no longer accepting these. I nearly returned my short ribs onto the tablecloth.

My friend shook his head and disappeared into the bathroom. The waiter dove into the back. I sat quietly, asparagus-scented smoke billowing from my red ears.

Eventually the manager walked past, on his way out for the night. He apologized casually, explaining what I already knew but had forgotten: that Nine75 had changed owners a while back, sold by Jim Sullivan to the owners of the Jet Hotel and several clubs. They accepted the cards for a while, he said, but recently stopped. Their computers could no longer read them.

Needless to say, I was less casual in my response. I was embarrassed, knowing my friend with the gift card would end up picking up the tab, and that I wouldn't put up much of a fight. So I explained to the waiter, rather heatedly, that when his bosses bought the restaurant, they inherited the $150 paid for that card. If the machine can't read it, I said, just pick up the tab.

We -- and by we, I mean my more gainfully employed friend -- fortunately had the means to fork over the $150. But what if we didn't?

Nothing swayed the manager, and eventually he disappeared. "We" paid our tab and bolted.

The next day, I called George Eder, the CEO of Jet Entertainment, who was a little better at arguing his restaurant's position. He explained that after buying the failing restaurant in early October, he put out a press release announcing that they would accept Sullivan's gift cards until December 31. In that time, Eder says, the restaurant accepted $10,000 worth of gift cards. (That seems unlikely: that's more than one $100 gift certificate a day for three straight months. But I get the point.)

"It's tough enough right now," Eder said, referring to the economy. "I would love to be in a position to say I'm going to honor everything that's left to me. I also have to look at the long term health of the business. I have forty people working for me."

He also explained, much more clearly than his manager, why a new computer system prevented them from accepting the cards: They had no way of knowing how much was on the card. As far as they knew, it was a $25 gift card, or an already-used one we'd found in the alley.

Fair enough, I suppose. I told Eder that there must be more they could do -- a sign on the door or the host stand, something. After all, if they accepted $10,000 in gift cards in three months, there could be plenty more out there. But at some point, he said, they have to move on: "If the money was flowing, I'd honor them to the end of time."

Fine. But still, I'm left wondering: Isn't there something more they could do? Did I overreact? What would you do if your free meal suddenly cost you (or your generous friend) $150?

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

Newsletters

All-access pass to the top stories, events and offers around town.

  • Top Stories
    Send:

Newsletters

All-access pass to top stories, events and offers around town.

Sign Up >

No Thanks!

Remind Me Later >